Is. lii. 7.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace".
THOUGH other types of self-dedication have become partly or wholly extinct — though each age has altered the device upon the current gold of nobleness and self-devotion—the missionaries (as Christ commanded them) have continued unbroken their Christ-like toil. Even the old dispensation lacked not its missionaries, from Noah, down to Jonah and to Daniel. But since Christ gave His last command to His assembled disciples, there have ever been some who felt that it was their more special call to obey it. St. Paul was not one of those who heard it, but was, as it were, " the abortive-born " in the apostolic family, yet what a type and model of all missionaries was he! That life of his as it stands revealed to us in his own Epistles, how sad it was, and how fruitful! From that day on which, blind and trembling, and with the scars of God's own thunder on his soul, he had staggered into the streets of Damascus, what a tragedy had encompassed him of ever-deepening gloom ! That first peril, when he had been let down in a basket through a window—the flights from assassination—the hot disputes at Antioch—the expulsion from Iconium— the stoning at Lystra—the quarrel with his own heart's brother—the acute spasms of that impalement by the stake in the flesh at Galatia—the agony in Macedonia of outward fightings and inward fears — the five Jewish scourgings—the three Roman flagellations—the polished scorn of Athens—the factious violence of Corinth—the streaming tears of the parting at Miletus—the gnashing fury of Jewish mobs—the illegal insolence of provincial tribunals;—these were but a fragment, and a small fragment, of his trials and miseries. Even the brute forces of nature seemed to be against him—he had to struggle in her rushing water-courses, to faint in her sultry deserts, to toss for long days and nights in leaky vessels on her tempestuous seas. This was the perilous, persecuted life on which he had to look back, as he sat chained to the rude legionary in that dreary Roman prison. He seemed to have found no result from all his labours, no reward for all his immense self-sacrifice. He seemed to have been abandoned and forgotten by the very Churches which he had loved. Nor did any sunbeam gild even the last unrecorded scene. See the bent, grey, weak old man, led by the soldier along the Appian Road; see the sword flash, and the head fall; and which, think you, of that small handful of weeping Christian brethren could have dreamed in his wildest dream, that, to that poor martyr's glorious memory, shrines more magnificent than that of the Capitolian Jupiter should tower over cities more glorious than Imperial Rome, long centuries after the " insulting vanity" of triumph had ceased, and "silent vestal" and " chiefest pontifex" had become forgotten names ? Nor did the saint, the martyr himself, dream of it. His thoughts were not of earthly crowns. He asked the service, not the payment; the battle, not the victory. Type of all true missionary lives, his was "the faith triumphant in failure, which is better than self-congratu-lation on any visible results".
And for three centuries after him the whole Church led more or less of a mission life. But missions in a directer sense—the setting forth of Christian men to preach the Gospel in heathen lands—became specially memorable in the fourth and following centuries. From point to point, like the flashing of a glad signal from hill to hill, the heralds of the Gospel sped on its light. In the fourth century Ulphilas had been the apostle of the Goths. In the fifth St. Patrick converted Ireland. In the sixth St. Columba began that holy work which makes " the heart glow amid the ruins of Iona," and St. Colum-banus carried to the shores of the Swiss lakes the lessons of truth and the examples of holy living. In the seventh century, struck by the beauty of the fair-haired Saxon slaves in the market-place of Rome—Non Angli, sed Angeli, siessent Christi—Gregory despatched St. Augustine to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury. When England had been converted she sent forth St. Willibrod in the eighth century to the shores of Northern Germany, and St. Boniface to traverse undaunted the Thuringian wilds; and when the Scandinavian vikings were becoming the scourge of every nation, and the terror of every sea, in the ninth century, an Anskar, and, in the eleventh, an Olaf, won them also to the faith of Christ, and the main work of the missionary apostolate in Europe was achieved. He who sits on the hill at Canterbury may recall how, from the mission-work of the little band of monks, headed by Augustine, which advanced with beating hearts to preach under the oak to the Pagan Ethelbert, there sprang that first English Christian city of Canterbury, and that first English Christian kingdom of Kent, which has expanded into the Christian empire of Great Britain, and which involved in its vast issues the conversion not only of Germany, but also of North America, of Australasia, of the far Pacific Islands,—and who can tell of what future empires and kingdoms, in circle after circle of ever-broadening light, till the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea ?
But perhaps no missionary who ever lived was greater than Francis Xavier, in the sixteenth century. A son of the lords of Xavier, he entered the University of Paris, and there rose into brilliant reputation. Among the crowd of the wealthy and the noble who thronged his lectures stood day by day the stern figure of Ignatius Loyola, and his sordid dress and stern bearing were often the butt of Xavier's ridicule. Yet Ignatius did not leave him. Constantly with him, in business, in pleasure, in discussion, in amusement, in exercise, in society, he invariably ended every meeting with the one awful question : " What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ? " When the popularity of Xavier failed, Ignatius revived it, but still with the same question, "What shall it profit?" When his resources were wasted by extravagance, Ignatius re-supplied his wants, but still with the same question, " What shall it profit?" In success, in happiness, in pleasure, always the same question, " What shall it profit ? " At last that question was burnt in upon the young man's soul, and joining the Order of Jesus, which Ignatius had founded, he surpassed all the rest in his austerities and penances. At this time John III. of Portugal desired to plant Christianity in India, and Xavier embraced with delight the awful and perilous mission. Imbued with the stern error that the crushing of every natural affection was a duty which Christianity required, he passed without a farewell the castle in which his mother and sister lived, and embarked penniless and possessionless on a vessel bound for Goa. During the long months of the voyage he lived entirely on the scraps given him by the soldiers and sailors; but so entirely did he win the love of all on board by tending the sick, and consoling the sorrowful, and trying to reclaim the sinful, that, though he landed in all the emaciation of disease and weakness, his shipmates regarded him as the happiest man of the crowded and suffering crew. How he was shocked by the depravities of Goa—how he taught the children there—how he went to work among the poor degraded pearl-fishers of the Straits of Manaar—how he laboured at Cape Comorin— how he converted thousands, and baptised tens of thousands—how he crossed to Travancore and inspired the Rajah to repel a hostile invasion—how he reformed the guilty city of Malacca—how, with calm intrepidity, he carried on unmoved the offices of religion while an earthquake was rocking the very ground under his feet—how, amid incredible dangers and violent opposition, he made his way to Japan—how he met and foiled the bonzes— how returning to Goa he tended the people during a raging pestilence—all his learning, all the sagacity, all the patience, all the boundless self-denial, all the immense empire and authority over the minds of men which that self-conquest gained for him, you may read in the records of his life. But in his, as in so many previous cases, I should like you to observe the abounding joy and happiness which he experienced in the midst of squalor, disease, starvation, hatred, suffering. On one occasion he " baptised till his hand dropped with weariness, and his voice became inaudible; experiencing, as he says, in his whole soul a joy which it would be vain to attempt to express either in writing or by speech." " So intense," he wrote on another occasion, "and abundant are the delights which God is accustomed to bestow on those who labour diligently in His service in the vineyard in this barbarous land, that if there be, in this life, any true solid enjoyment, I believe it to be this, and this alone." And how did he die ? I will read you the description. He was trying to make his way to China to plant the Gospel there, when the angel of death met him on his wild and perilous journey. " At his own request he was removed to the shore that he might meet his end with greater composure. Stretched on the naked beach, with the cold blasts of a Chinese winter aggravating his pains, he contended alone with the agonies of the fever which wasted his vital powers. It was an agony and a solitude for which the happiest of the sons of men might well have exchanged the dearest society and the purest joys of life. It was an agony in which his uplifted crucifix reminded him of a far more awful woe endured for his deliverance. It was a solitude thronged by blessed ministers of invisible consolation. Tears burst from his fading eyes, tears of an emotion too big for utterance. In the cold collapse of death his features were, for a few brief moments, irradiated as with the first beams of approaching glory. He raised himself on his crucifix, and exclaiming, 'In te, Domine, speravi—non confundar in seternum !' he bowed his head and died".